Mama Madison: Big plans for summer

No spoilers, but 'gymp' may or may not be involved

After the baseball debacle of last summer, you'd think I'd have learned my lesson regarding picking my kids activities for them. Those three months were among the hardest of my son's life, and were perhaps even more painful for my husband and me. My son told me he didn't want to sign up. And whether it was wishful thinking he'd discover his inner Ryan Braun (minus the steroids thing), or perhaps my latent sadomasochistic streak, I signed him up anyway.

Every at bat was excruciating, and after the final strike out of the season I swore to myself I'd forever let the kids take the lead on their activity choices from that day on.

As it turns out I was, as I am so often prone to do, lying to myself. Because as my inbox is deluged daily with more after school lessons, weekend enrichment opportunities and summer camps (in February?) than I have the children, cash or carpooling ability to take advantage of, I am finding myself wanting to make gentle suggestions, if not downright demands, on what they should be getting involved in.

For example, the baseball-hater has informed me that this spring will likely mark the end of his rather non-illustrious soccer career. And I am perfectly okay with that. Neither of us is very good at keeping track of multiple pairs of shoes, especially ones with little pointy spikes on the bottom. But what I really think he's trying to tell me is that he'd like to be done with sports forever. And I am not sure I'm okay with that. The kid has a tremendous amount of sixth-grade-boy energy and it has to be burned off somewhere that isn't the living room. I'm pretty flexible. He could try something solo, like golf. Or something exotic, like capoeira , the Brazilian martial art. Or even something like archery. But he has to do something physical---my choice, not his.

And my desire to steer the "activity boat" is even more pronounced with my nine-year-old. I am sure it's some Freudian mother/daughter thing, but it bothers me how much I want her to like the same things that I liked as a kid. So I'm pushing for another crack at sleepaway camp this summer. Or at least a local day camp. I want her to ride horses, swim in a lake and make lanyards out of gymp.

But she doesn’t want to hear about nature walks or campfires. She just wants to take art classes. Not arts and crafts classes, mind you -- she doesn't seem to have my same undying respect for the friendship bracelet. Instead, she's looking for instruction in figure drawing, watercolor painting and sculpting. Sure, a mom can hope that her little girl may yet discover the joy of cabin life. But I guess I should be counting my blessings that she has a great place to learn the stuff she's interested in, right down the street.

Monroe Street Fine Arts Center , celebrating its 15th anniversary this month, is a pretty happening place. From the guitar and violin lessons my kids never quite took to, to open art studios, to the fine art instruction my daughter is clamoring for, the Center offers a great opportunity for kids to indulge their creativity. And I don't doubt for a second my daughter would be just as happy learning to paint landscapes as horseback riding through them this coming summer.

So perhaps I've learned my lesson. And I will let her take the lessons she really wants to take.

And I'm sure I could ask the director of MSFAC if they'd consider a class in gymp or macramé.

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